Commander’s Palace announced Megan “Meg” Bickford as the new Executive Chef to helm the kitchen at the New Orleanians’ destination for leading edge Haute Creole cuisine. With over 12 years of experience with the Commander’s Family of Restaurants, Chef Meg started at Commander’s Palace in 2008 and previously served as the Executive Chef of Cafe Adelaide, the Commander’s family’s playful, modern Creole restaurant. In her time at the helm of Café Adelaide, Meg was chosen as one of FSR's “Rising Stars” and one of Louisiana Cookin’s “Chefs to Watch.” Chef Meg takes over the kitchen after Chef Tory McPhail, who served as Executive Chef for 18 years. Chef Tory is trading in his Commander’s toque to move closer to family out West and enjoy the great outdoors in Bozeman, Montana where he will be leading the culinary career development for a restaurant group there.
“Walking into Commander's Palace every day as the chef has been an honor,” says Chef Tory McPhail. “I have had the pleasure to work with the family on and off for 25 years, serving as Executive Chef for almost 19 years, and it has been my greatest work. I am leaving Commander’s Palace in the very able hands of the family and Chef Meg. I have worked side by side with Chef Meg for over 12 years and she has been eager and hungry for a long time now. I couldn’t be prouder of her and I look forward to seeing her stamp on the legendary restaurant as it continues to evolve. I will miss this city that has become my home, the people here and the family environment at Commander’s Palace. It has been a helluva run!”
Chef Meg comes from a family with a father from New Orleans and a mother from “down the Bayou” in Larose, so both Cajun and Creole influences run in her blood. As Commander’s Palace is the kitchen where Cajun and Creole crashed for the first time in the 1970's with Paul Prudhomme and Ella Brennan, the team is thrilled to have Chef Meg and her Creole and Cajun influences take the helm. Meg knows the flavors of New Orleans and Louisiana as well as she knows the flavors of Commander's Palace after years of working her way up the ranks. After she graduated from the John Folse Culinary Institute, Commander’s Palace hired young Meg, hopeful that the skills she learned in school would translate to the fast-paced kitchen. Meg quickly proved to be a budding talent and worked her way up the hot line and management positions.
“Naming Chef Meg as our Executive Chef is a proud moment for us,” say Commander’s Co-Proprietors Ti Martin and Lally Brennan. “Meg has always been a spitfire in the kitchen, a ball of energy with eyes darting about, seeing and learning everything. She is small but mighty and has the complete respect of our entire kitchen and restaurant. There is a sparkle in her eye and magic in those hands. We thank Chef Tory for his time and for leaving us in the very good hands of Chef Meg. We've never missed hugging more than now as Tory McPhail moves on to his next ventures. We have known Tory since he was a teenager. He has given so much to Commander's and taken Commander’s to new heights. Tory has been a strong leader, a creative force, and a mentor to so many, and a friend to us. He will be dearly missed day to day, but our friendship will last a lifetime.”
While most have already tasted and come to love the dishes Chef Meg has made over the years, a few of her new menu additions include Miso & Sugarcane Shrimp Coated Redfish with spicy chilis, lemongrass, shaved Mirliton, ripped mint and lime, Dirty Duck Confit served with a sweet citrus and sour orange pepper jelly over Louisiana heirloom pumpkin au gratin, roasted apple salad, white bean crisp and “dirty” andouille duck jus, and Jumbo Lump Crab Stuffed Crab, featuring a Pontchartrain blue crab shell overstuffed with chilled Louisiana jumbo lump, crisp fennel, mirlition, Louisiana citrus & tarragon infused olive oil, Cajun caviar-crab fat aioli and hand pounded filé gremolata.
“For me, the future seems hidden in the past. Studying New Orleans and Louisiana cooking inspires me to see where the past can intersect with the future. The possibilities seem endless,” adds Chef Meg. “I want to dive deeper into all the influences on our cuisine. Creole cuisine has always and should always evolve, and our team gets excited about different flavors and ingredients that are shaping cuisine all over Louisiana right now. We are not about standing still. I am eager to keep moving it forward with the Commander’s team.”
Chef Meg is a mother to 3-year old Stella and on her days off can be found at large family gatherings with Stella and husband Richard in tow in Cut Off, Louisiana where food is the center of life. Cooking outdoors for gatherings for 20 to 100 are the norm with seafood usually at center stage. Her summers growing up were spent fishing at her uncle's camp in Fourchon and all over South Louisiana. After cooking school at the John Folse Culinary Institute, Meg counts her mentors as her mom and dad, Dale and Ora Ordoyne, Tory McPhail, Chris Barbato, Uncle Carl, Kenny Meyer, Ti Martin, Ella, Lally, and Dottie Brennan.
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